Hypersensitive Brain Networks Linked To Fibromyalgia


Individuals with fibromyalgia may owe their discomfort to brain networks that have rapid, global reactions to minor changes.

This network hypersensitivity is called explosive synchronization (ES), and it can lead to synchronized network responses, similar to what happens during a power grid failure or surge.

“For the first time…research shows that the hypersensitivity experienced by chronic pain patients may result from hypersensitive brain networks,” says researcher Richard Harris, Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesiology, University of Michigan. “The subjects had conditions similar to other networks that undergo explosive synchronization.”

When the researchers recorded the electrical brain activity of ten women study participants with fibromyalgia, the EEGs showed hypersensitive, unstable brain networks. There was also a strong association between the women’s degree of ES and their self-reported chronic pain intensity.

The investigators then used brain activity computer models to show that the networks of the fibromyalgia patients were more sensitive to electrical stimulation than the model without ES qualities. “We again see the chronic pain brain is electrically unstable and sensitive,” says Harris.

Since ES modeling can be done outside the brain or in computers, researchers can test comprehensively for brain regions that might influence a hypersensitive network to become more stable. These regions could then be targets for noninvasive brain modulating therapies.

“The network-based approach, which can combine individual patient brain data and computer simulation, heralds the possibility of a personalized approach to chronic pain treatment,” said George Mashour, M.D., Ph.D., researcher and professor of anesthesiology at Michigan Medicine.

The Michigan researchers worked with scientists at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea. Their findings were published in Scientific Reports.

Source: U of M Health
Photo credit: Michigan Health Lab


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Fibromyalgia is a prevalent condition that affects many people in the United States. Approximately 3.7 million Americans have Fibromyalgia. That is 1 in every 73 people.

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